• Gangrene

    (Dry Gangrene; Gas Gangrene; Organ or Tissue Death; Wet Gangrene)

    Definition

    Gangrene is the death of an organ or body tissue. When the blood supply is cut off, the tissue does not get enough oxygen and begins to die. If the gangrene is widespread, shock can occur.
    There are three main types:
    • Dry gangrene—lack of blood supply causes the tissue to dry up and slough off
    • Wet gangrene—usually occurs when the tissue is infected with bacteria, tissue becomes moist and breaks down
    • Gas gangrene—a particular type of bacteria (Clostridia) produces gas bubbles in the tissue

    Causes

    Causes of gangrene include:
    • Infection, especially after surgery or injury
    • Diabetes
    • Any condition that blocks blood flow to tissue (such as, atherosclerosis)

    Risk Factors

    These factors increase your chance of developing gangrene. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:

    Symptoms

    Symptoms may include:
    • Swelling
    • Pain, followed by numbness when the tissue is dead
    • Sloughing off of skin
    • Color changes, ranging from white, to red, to black
    • Shiny appearance to skin
    • Frothy, clear, watery discharge
    • Fever and chills
    • Nausea and vomiting
    Gangrene of the Foot
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    Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam.
    Tests may include:
    • Blood tests
    • Tests of the discharge and the tissue
    • X-ray—a test that uses radiation to take pictures of structures inside the body
    • CT scan—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the inside of the body
    • MRI scan—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of the inside of the body

    Treatment

    Treatment of gangrene includes:

    Prevention

    To help prevent gangrene:
    • If you have diabetes, take good care of your hands and feet.
    • If you need surgery, ask your doctor about taking antibiotics. This is especially true if you need intestinal surgery.

    RESOURCES

    American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.aafp.org

    American Diabetes Association http://www.diabetes.org

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Diabetes Association http://www.diabetes.ca

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

    References

    Cecil RL, Goldman L, et al. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2000.

    Conn HF, Rakel RE. Conn's Current Therapy 2001. 53rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2001.

    Gas gangrene. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated June 2008. Accessed June 24, 2008.

    Mandell GL, Douglas RG, et al. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone; 2000.

    Rosen P, et al. Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby-Year Book; 2000.

    Revision Information

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